Sometimes They Land in Trees: Wildlife Wednesday, January 2018

Happy 2018 and welcome  to the first Wildlife Wednesday celebration of this new year.  Winter arrived in Austin in the last several days with an ice-numbing grip of below freezing temperatures.

I heard that snort and saw those eyes a’rolling!  I understand that compared to much of continental North America, my goose-bump inspired whining won’t win much sympathy, but darn it, it’s cold!  Truthfully, I’m just fine-n-dandy with the hard freeze, in great hopes that every mosquito in Texas is dead, dead, dead (not likely, though).  Also, with the frigid temps, my autumnally hued and interminably foliaged trees have finally let loose their leaves.

In the last couple of days, Red oak leaves blanketed the entirety of my back garden.

Maybe now I’ll be better able to observe the variety of birds who visit my garden, as the winter avian Texans (especially the tiny ones) prefer to flit among the bare limbs, in search of whatever they search for.  With the leaves as camouflage, that’s been hard to do.

This shot was taken on Sunday, just before the temperatures plummeted and the tree dumped most (but not all!) its leaves.

That said, for most of this past month, critter watching has mostly involved the birds at the feeders, with the random pitter-patting of maddening mammals and the skulking about of bothersome marsupials.

I’m tickled at the early appearance of two examples of the stunning American GoldfinchSpinus tristis.  American Goldfinches usually show up later in winter, so it’s a treat to see them now.

This handsome fella is wearing his non-breeding colors.

Do you need something?

Pretty boy!

In addition to that obvious and gorgeous adult male, is this female or juvenile male.

The coloring–both dark and light–are muted in this bird.

Wonderful wing bars!

Sweet face!

American Goldfinches belong to the same Family and Order as the House Finch, and House Finch eye disease, Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, which I wrote about here, also affects American Goldfinch populations.  Fortunately, the two Americans who noshed at my feeder appeared free of the disease, the good news of which I reported on Project FeederWatch.  I still see a female House Finch with one infected eye which is completely closed due to the infection.  She feeds by searching for seeds on the ground, but she struggles to land when she flies and is vulnerable to predators with only one good eye.  All other House Finches who are in my garden–and there are quite a few– appear healthy.   The House FinchHaemorhous mexicanus, is a year-round resident, becoming more active as winter settles in.  Most bird feeders are designed with multiple perching stations, and birds share the stations with varying degrees of camaraderie.  Here, the House Finch clan dominates, with a red-accented male perching at the left and the more drab females completing the feeder trio.

Hey birds, over here!

Another duo feeding a the food bar is a second male House Finch sharing a meal with a Black-crested TitmouseBaeolophus atricristatus.

I’m not sure if the Black-crested is a male or female, but I’m confident that the House Finch is a young male.

The House Finch  poses nicely, the Black-crested snarfs seeds.

A Northern CardinalCardinalis cardinalis,  couple nests each year in a neighbor’s shrubbery,  but make daily forays into my garden to feed and bathe.    No photo this month of the scarlet feathered male, but the female is a head-turner in her own right!

A common Texas wintering songbird is the Orange-crowned WarblerOreothlypis celata, and I’m fortunate to have at least one who is regularly visiting.

Song birds love suet and it’s a good thing to feed them in winter.  I can’t provide suet for 7 or 8 months because Austin’s warm climate causes the suet to turn rancid quickly.  It’s a perfect winter/early spring food though and provides fat, which birds need.

This little Orange-crowned also enjoys the occaisional bath in the pond bog.

About to take the plunge!

I provide a commercial suet for my avian friends, but there are many recipes for homemade suet.  Check out these recipes if you’re so inclined

Facing the camera!

The pair of  Carolina WrensThryothorus ludovicianus, also visit more than just the feeders.   A favorite perch is a metal sculpture where each of the pair takes turns surveying the landscape.

Check out my profile!

The 360 degree view requires a look-see at the backside!

This favorite perching place is just below a little house built for the wrens, which they’ve inspected, but haven’t yet used for chick rearing.  Fingers-crossed that this spring, they’ll decide the neighborhood is worthy of their chicks.

Wrens forage on the ground, scavenging for insects and small seeds; they also enjoy the suet.

Eyeing something in the fallen leaves!


Finally, a bird who lands in a tree!  

Giving me the stink-eye is this immature Cooper’s HawkAccipiter cooperii. He/she had scattered the neighborhood doves, with no meal as a reward, and was resting in a neighbor’s tree, no doubt annoyed with missing lunch.  The beauty loped off just after this shot.  Cooper’s Hawks are year-round residents here, but easier to observe once winter’s  chill render some trees bare.

There are always plenty of squirrels (stealing birdseed and digging in plant containers) who become meals for neighborhood raptors, though perhaps not as often as some might wish.  This squirrel was safe on the ground and near the house, munching away at fallen sunflower seeds and generally behaving well.

Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger)

The Virginia OpossumDidelphis virginiana, is still around too, sometimes mosying through the garden during daylight, but not sleeping in the owl house–for now.

There are no Eastern Screech Owls in the owl house either, nor have I heard the adults’ signature trill at night.  I’m concerned that no couple is interested in the owl real estate in my garden and if there are no takers, that will be disappointing.  There’s still time for some owl action and owls are remarkably elusive; I won’t begin the no-owls-in-my-garden lamentation just yet.

So begins another year of garden wildlife drama.  Let’s celebrate lots of life in the garden during 2018. Please share your wildlife stories and remember to leave your link when you comment.

Good wildlife gardening to you!

34 thoughts on “Sometimes They Land in Trees: Wildlife Wednesday, January 2018

  1. Oh my! Those goldfinches in the first pictures are the guys that swarmed into my dining room when I cut a bunch of sunflowers and put them in a big vase on the table! I walked in on them, they paused briefly, and then all flew out the window at the same time, leaving a flurry of tiny feathers, sunflower frass and poop! It was everywhere, even up in the chandelier!


  2. Pingback: Wildlife Visitors in December 2017 – My Wild Australia

    • The American Goldfinches are quite the lookers-I love seeing them in a group. And I’d agree with you about the titmouse–they’re darling and they hang out with a native chickadee, so the cuteness factor is magnified! There are quite a lot of plants that our native fauna can eat during winter, but you’re correct in that with urban/suburban areas, people don’t plant for wildlife–it’s all turf, for the most part. That said, many folks do plant native trees which are great for wildlife.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Tina.. Lovely pictures of your birds! I especially love the Possum- we have 3 outdoor Possums that we feed, however, because of the extreme cold we’ve been having (-2 degrees), we haven’t seen them for over a week. I hope they are ok. The skunks have been hiding too. Stay warm and if you get a chance, check out my blog at 🙋🐦🐾


    • Yeah, he was a stinker! He/she came to the pond waterfall for a drink and then rumbled through the garden. I was messing with the camera and he just disappeared. I’m always amazed at how fast they can move! I think watching wildlife from indoors–this time of year–is an excellent idea.:)

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  4. Pingback: December Wildlife Roundup: Watching the Watchers | Frogend dweller's Blog

  5. So sad to hear about that eye disease… How awful… I love the Gold finches! I obviously don’t know a lot about birds, but I put a thistle seed feeder up outside, hoping to attract some. Haven’t seen any interest in it at all – everyone heads for the scrumptious black sunflower seeds. Oh well, maybe they are all gone for the winter…

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    • Hi.. my goldfinches won’t eat the thistle seed either, only black oil sunflower. The odd thing is that 9 years ago I lived 10 minutes away from here and those goldfinches loved the thistle seed.. Go figure.. Happy birding! 🙋🐦

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      • Oh, that’s interesting! And certainly good to know. I’ll keep watching for any interest whatsoever. At this point, they are all turning their back on the thistles. I guess we all go for the good stuff in the buffet lineup… 🙂

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    • It is sad about that disease and hard to watch the little one that I’m seeing. Truthfully, she’d be better off predated, because the other alternative is starvation. ): There was a male that was coming to the feeder a while back–haven’t seen him. As for the thistle, I’ve tried it too and never got anything but mold! My birds always like the sunflower seeds and the suet in cool months–and that’s it! I do grow lots of plants that many birds feed from, so that’s something.

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  6. Tina the photos are magnificent and I like all the animals photographed. The male American goldfinch has a yellow color that makes him a beautiful boy, and the female with the dull colors is beautiful. I’m sorry about House Finch eye disease in that poor House Finch female. I love the black crest Titmouse. The Reineta anranjada crown is beautiful and also sings. The Squirrel is beautiful. Wow! La Zarrigüeya is very funny in the photo: she has left the house of the owls quiet. I’m sorry that Eastern Screech Owls have not nested in the owl’s house. I hope they do next year! Congratulations for your post Tina! Happy Wednesday Wildlife! Greetings from Margarita.


    • Thank you, Margarita. I’m sorry too about the little finch–I hope she recovers, but I don’t know that she will. I think everyone likes the titmouse, so you’re not alone! I still hope that the owls will return and raise their chicks in the box, but only time will tell.


  7. Gosh, your goldfinches really are gold! It is hard to watch diseased birds isn’t it? There are one or two chaffinches here whose legs are covered in lesions from Fringilla papillomavirus (I think). I worry about spreading the virus through the feeders and fountains and I try to remember good hygiene, but I also know that they all hop around the same places around the patio, so there is bound to be some transfer. Love your ‘Hey birds’ photo, plus your homeless cute opossum (sorry about the owls).
    My Wildlife report is here:


    • Yes, it is hard to watch a sick animal and know that its outcome isn’t very good. That said, she hangs on and feeds on the ground, where there’s little competition, so that’s something in her favor.


    • I think it’s the pond and arboreal cover which attracts the birds, especially our wintering and migrating birds. I live in a decidedly non-gardening neighborhood and am really the only household who gardens for wildlife.


  8. Me, snort and roll my eyes? Never! I reserve that for the Brits who try to show me pictures of their neighborhoods ‘under snow.’ Probably no more than inch, but still brings the country to a halts, including kids out of schools for days. Never mind. I applaud your featuring the female cardinal. Indeed a beauty. Always reminds me of one of those creamsicle ice creams I had when I was a kid…


    • Haha! As I recall, you’re from the northeast, quite used to deep snow, not to be confused with deep state, though I guess we could call it ‘deep state snow’! Oh well. I love your likening of the female cardinal’s coloring to a creamsicle–so apt and yes, I think she’s fetching!


    • Working! Someone needs to fix this–you’re too charming and engaging and I certainly don’t want to miss your comments, I’m sure others feel the same way!


  9. I laughed at your comment about the leaves dropping. Last week, when I left for work, all of our cypress trees were gorgeous, with glowing, rusty needles. When I came home for lunch? They all were on the ground: kerplop! It wasn’t windy or stormy. I’ve read that there’s something called an “abcission zone” that readies a plant to drop its leaves (or other parts, I suppose) and occasionally conditions will cause the weakened leaves to drop all at once. It’s very interesting.

    I gave up and started feeding raw peanuts in the shell for the bluejays and scattering shelled sunflower, peanuts, and such for the other birds. I hate to bring back the pigeons (there’s only about four who come regularly for water now) but it was just too cold to not put out something. that may have more to do with me than with the needs of the birds, but they obviously didn’t care one bit about my motivation!

    I finally got a response from a wordpress forum moderator. I still haven’t heard from their “happiness engineers,” despite their assurances that as a paying customer (no ads, etc.) I’m due live chats 24/7. Anyway: the forum volunteer gave me the Askimet link to get help from them, and I heard back in about an hour. I’ve submitted the info they wanted, and we’ll see how it goes. At least Askimet seems to have their act together — here’s the link to the help page if you ever need it.


    • Gosh, I hope those ‘happiness’ folk get it together for you–what a pain! I’m also feeding the birds and don’t the bluejays (and squirrels…) just love the peanuts in shells? I haven’t ever come across the term “abcission zone”–thanks, a new one to toss around. 🙂 But I have seen other trees (Red buckeye, Mexican buckeye) whose leaves drop seemingly all at once. I love the look of leaves as a blanket under the bare tree, at least until mush sets in or wind messes with the form.

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  10. I love seeing what is happening around the world. How long do the red oaks lose their leaves for? I find it fascinating that they adapt to local conditions. Gorgeous bird photos too: nearly all unfamiliar to me. Your goldfinch makes more sense than what we call a goldfinch in the U.K.!


    • Me too, Ali! The oaks became leafless by late December, though that can vary, depending upon when our first hard freeze occurrs. They’ll begin leafing out in early March–or so. These oaks are native to this region, so they’re acclimated to the capricious Texas climate. 🙂 I think I have to agree with you about the name of the UK goldfinch, perhaps a name less dependent on “gold”…

      As for “atrium”–thank goodness for WordPress “edit” button. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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